SMA's Rishika Kartik Wins President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award

SMA student leader Rishika Kartik, who has dedicated her every available hour to service for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) community, was presented with the President's Volunteer Service Award at a surprise assembly at the High School today. The Gold Level Award recognizes young adults, ages 16-25, for completing more than 250 hours of service; Rishika reached four times that, with 1,100 hours so far.

Rishika, Grade 12, has made tremendous inroads in her mission to highlight the artistic voices of blind students, increase museum accessibility, and further research on the brains of blind individuals, one that started her freshman year when she was introduced to the Anchor Center for Blind Children.

  • She serves on the Museum Accessibility Committee at the National Federation of the Blind.

  • She is the recent recipient of an INSITE Grant to execute a multisensory art installation in public spaces in Denver and Colorado Springs by RedLine Contemporary Art Center, through the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts' Regional Regranting program.

  • This summer, Rishika was the first high school student to work at the Bedny Lab at Johns Hopkins University, where she piloted experiments to understand neuroplasticity and the conceptual development of blind individuals. 

  • Also this summer, Rishika finished her project, Vision of the Artist’s Soul (VAS) as the youngest-ever recipient of a two-year Arts in Society Grant Award, with in-person and virtual classes for persons with vision loss, leading 57 workshops with 830 people around the world. She also continued her role as President of Tactile Art Club, conducting art studios at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, and the Braille Institute. 

  • Since school started this year, she has: served as an instructor for a Learning Box Activity with the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO), the Colorado Center for the Blind, and the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults; volunteered for NFB’s 6 Dot Dash 5K Event to raise awareness and funds for Braille literacy programs, blindness skills training, scholarships and summer camps; written a blog for Mirror Image Arts titled Artivism; and participated in Pearson's Tactile Graphics Study at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).

  • She has been a featured panelist for the Colorado Health Foundation and Mirror Image Arts, and her Tactile Art Club was featured on 4CBS Denver news.

"This intersectionality of inclusion, diversity, art, and community is a blueprint for significant social progress and change,” said Amber Summers, SMA's Director of Service Learning and award presenter. “People often question whether teenagers can make a difference in the world and follow through with their ideas. Rishika has, can, and will continue.” 

Students in the High School are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of service in their own time over their high school career as part of the service learning curriculum at SMA.

In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too. The PVSA has continued under each administration, honoring the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation. Led by the AmeriCorps and managed in partnership with Points of Light, this program allows Certifying Organizations to recognize their most exceptional volunteers.

St. Mary's Academy is Denver's premier Catholic, Independent Co-Ed Pre-K to Grade 8 and All-Girls High School, founded in 1864 by the Sisters of Loretto. Based in Cherry Hills Village, SMA inspires leaders to act with integrity, seek justice, build community, and change the world.